FOIA Advisor

FOIA News: FOIA Advisory Committee to meet on June 6, 2019

FOIA News (2019)Ryan MulveyComment

The Office of Government Information Services published a notice in today’s issue of the Federal Register to announce the next meeting of the FOIA Advisory Committee on June 6, 2019, from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm. Those who wish to attend the meeting must register by June 3, 2019. The meeting will be live-streamed for those who are unable to attended on the National Archives’s YouTube channel.

FOIA News: Interior Secretary defends FOIA review procedure

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Bernhardt defends Interior Department’s public records review policy

By Tribune News Service, Austin Amer. Statesman, May 23, 2019  

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt defended on Wednesday the agency’s policy allowing politically appointed officials to review and comment on public records requests that relate to them.

Appearing before a Senate appropriations subcommittee to testify about his department’s budget, Bernhardt said the so-called “awareness review” policy was legal.

“It’s a process that’s very long-standing in the department,” Bernhardt told the committee. “We definitely formalized it,” he said. “It’s completely legal.

Read more here.

Court opinions issued May 22, 2019

Court Opinions (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Pub. Citizen. v. U.S. Dep't of Educ. (D.D.C.) -- concluding that agency properly relied on deliberative process and attorney-client privileges to withhold records pertaining to agency event, notably including the name of agency attorney from whom advice was sought.

Amadis v. DOJ (D.D.C. ) -- ruling that: (1) plaintiff failed to exhaust administrative remedies with respect to responses issued by DEA and FBI, notwithstanding those agencies’ offers to perform additional searches; (2) DEA performed adequate search for records pertaining to agency’s processing of plaintiff’s earlier FOIA request; (3) FBI properly relied on Exemption 7(E) to withhold search slips and case notes pertaining to its processing of plaintiff’s earlier FOIA request; (4) DOJ’s Office of Information Policy reasonably interpreted scope of plaintiff’s request and properly relied on Exemptions 5 and 6 to withhold information from its appeal “blitz” forms; (5) Department of State performed adequate search for records pertaining to its processing of plaintiff’s earlier FOIA request.

Summaries of all published opinions issued since April 2015 are available here.

FOIA News: Interior maintains Obama's "sensitive review" policy

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Interior Department policy let political appointees review FOIA requests

So-called awareness review process could expose department to legal action

By Jacob Holzman, Roll Call, May 22, 2019

The Interior Department has for about a year allowed political appointees to weigh in on which federal records are released to the public, creating delays that could violate open records law and expose the department to legal action.

Read more here.

FOIA News: DOJ releases name of former U.S. Attorney who committed misconduct

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

The Justice Department Spent Nearly Two Years Fighting To Hide The Identity Of A US Attorney Accused Of Misconduct

A federal judge ordered DOJ to release the now-former US attorney’s name after BuzzFeed News sued.

By Zoe Tillman, BuzzFeed News, May 20, 2019

The Justice Department’s inspector general announced in May 2017 that an unnamed US attorney, who had since retired, committed misconduct in office. He’d had an affair with a subordinate, according to the one-page release, created a hostile work environment, and potentially violated department sexual harassment rules.

Two years later — after BuzzFeed News went to court — a judge found that the public’s interest in bad behavior by top government officials outweighed their right to privacy and forced the Justice Department to release his name late last week: Stephen Wigginton, who served as a US attorney in Illinois from 2010 to 2015.

Read more here.

Court opinion issued May 17, 2019

Court Opinions (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Proctor v. NARA (N.D. Cal.) -- finding that: (1) agency properly relied on Exemption 3 in conjunction with Rule Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e) to withhold plaintiff's 1998 deposition transcript regarding Monica Lewinsky, except as to the identities of the prosecutors, the court reporter, and plaintiff; and (2) court did not have inherent authority to release remaining deposition transcript; that authority belonged to the Eastern District of Virginia, under whose supervision the transcript was produced.

Summaries of all published opinions issued since April 2015 are available here.

Court opinions issued May 16, 2019

Court Opinions (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Humane Soc'y v. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Serv. (E.D. Va.) -- concluding that: (1) agency released copies of all requested African elephant and lion trophy permits, which mooted plaintiff’s claim; and (2) FOIA’s reading room provision did not obligate government to publish permitting records created in the future on a continuous basis.

Willis v. FBI (D.D.C.) -- finding that FBI performed adequate search for records concerning plaintiff and that it properly withheld name of agency employee pursuant to Exemption 6.

Summaries of all published opinions issued since April 2015 are available here.